Having too much stuff has been linked to increased stress and anxiety levels. It’s also thought that it can sap your energy and hold you back emotionally. Simplifying your living space may not only help to make you feel physically less crowded, it could also contribute to your emotional well-being.
Like the sound of it but don’t know where to start? Here are some tips to get started:
1. Storage Solutions Aren’t Always Solutions!
Don’t kid yourself into thinking that buying another storage unit is a step in the right direction: it’s just giving you the opportunity to shift your existing clutter around - and adding another item to your mix!
2. Inner Glow
Give your unwanted items to charity: you’ll feel good x 2 - streamlining your clutter and helping those less fortunate.
3. Give It Away
Pass on unwanted items. Regifting can be done sensitively and with class - be sure to remove gift tags and prices, and add a personal touch in the wrapping and card.
4. Goodbye, Buying
Stop buying things. Simple! Challenge yourself to a spend-free month; obviously this won’t extend to consumable things like food, gas and utilities, but commit to not buying any items intended for multiple uses.
5. Let It Go
Repurposing has its, er … purpose - but the guilty mindset that’s sometimes at play here can be hugely counter-productive. For instance: a t-shirt you don’t love gets refashioned as a pyjama top, or workout wear. Except you still don’t love it .. so you end up buying a t-shirt that you do love, plus workout gear you enjoy wearing and new pyjamas. And you still have that horrible t-shirt.
6. Baby Steps
Start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself by deciding to tackle the entire house, or even one entire room at once. Start with one drawer, or one bookshelf and take it from there.
7. Questions, Questions
Hold an item in your hands and ask yourself “Does it serve its purpose?” and “Does it make me happy?”
8. Cash In
Even if the thought of extra space doesn’t motivate you, does the thought of extra money? Ridding yourself of clutter by holding a yard sale, or listing things on eBay or Craigslist can provide you with some extra dollars - just be mindful about how you spend them!
9. Make ‘Maybe’ into ‘Maybe Not’
Don’t live in a ‘just in case’ state. If you can’t conceive of a use for something in your current state of existence, then get rid of it. Yep, sure, absolutely, you may need to make a novelty cake one day. Until then, that oddly-shaped tin is just a waste of space. Ditch it!
10. Imaginative Play
Kids. Wouldn’t be without ‘em but oh dear, they really are the harbingers of ‘stuff’ aren’t they?! Easier said than done but - don’t let them be. They model their behaviour on yours, so encourage them to make their own fun and to not rely on toys too much. There’s nothing like a stick and some fresh air!
11. What’s The Value?
Make a list of your last five non-consumable purchases. Did they add value to your life? You’re a keen runner and bought new running shoes - no problem. You’re thinking you might take up running some time soon, so you’ve bought shoes, kit and a Garmin to ‘motivate’ you - not ideal.
12. Experience v Things
In James Wallman’s book “Stuffocation: Living More with Less” the value is on experientialism: that is, do your belongings offer an experience beyond their physical form? Or are they just … things?
13. Food For Thought
Turn your attention to the kitchen. You nose may easily detect out of date products in the fridge, but cupboards and pantries make for harder-to-detect culprits. Pull those jars and packets out and read the use-by labels.
14. Recipe For Success
While you’re in the kitchen … recipe books. So addictive and desirable but really, how often do you look at them? If they’re stained and splashed and sticky, they’re probably keepers. Otherwise … all of those “maybe I’ll make it someday” recipes are probably on the internet.
15. Pot Luck
Look up one-pot recipes. Simplifying your cooking regime means that you can scale back on your utensils and appliances. Most likely it will also result in simplifying what you eat, meaning that you’ll eat food that’s cleaner and healthier - and probably lose a few pounds in the process!
16. An Even Keel
Adopt a one in, one out policy. As soon as you get something new, rid yourself of a similar item. Don’t have a similar item? Get rid of something - anything - else. The idea is to keep your possessions under control.
17. No Compromises
When you’re out shopping, ask yourself one main question: do you love it? Don’t buy anything you don’t love - compromising just means that you’ll end up buying something that you like better at some stage later. For example: the coat you love is in the sale in your size … but not in your color. Ah well, the color’s not that important, right? You buy it. And then it becomes available in your size and color … right as the returns period for your original purchase ends.
18. The Great Outdoors
Spend more time outside: wide open spaces will make you crave the same simplicity at home - and can help to inspire you to create it.
19. Good Looks Aren’t Enough
Aim to have beautiful things that also serve a purpose. For instance, houseplants add color and vibrancy to any living space: many also have ‘air cleansing’ qualities.
20. Family Fun
If you have kids, think about that old saying: they want your presence, not your presents. The two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but do think about what you can buy and use to have fun together.
21. Swap It
Consider having a Book Swap box out the front of your home - the premise is simply that someone puts a book in and takes a book out. You can take it one step further and boost community spirit by suggesting to your neighbours to put an email address in the front of their ‘discarded’ books to encourage discussions and a ‘virtual’ book club.
22. An Easy Read
Read “A Squash and a Squeeze” by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Yes, it’s a kids’ book but it contains an important message: you don’t need more space, you need fewer things.
23. Shop Right
Love shopping? Look for retailers like H&M, who offer money-off vouchers on future purchases in exchange for your unwanted clothing.
24. Nostalgia Starts with “No”
Sentimentality can be the enemy of clear living spaces. Try taking photos of the things that hold memories for you, rather then keeping the actual things. Mount them all in an album; you can even write explanatory notes detailing their significance for posterity.
25. Reality Check
Know your style and stick to it. You live in black jeans and grey sweaters, but you see that cute dress on sale and it’s so pretty and … STOP! Text the friend who’d really love that dress and live vicariously through her enjoyment of it.
26. Just Ask
Specifying the gifts that you actually want can be delicate, although it seems to be completely acceptable when it comes to weddings. In any case, try letting people know that you’d like ‘non-thing’ gifts when you have an occasion coming up - whether these are travel vouchers towards your honeymoon, or a contribution towards a class you’d like to take.
27. Giving Goodness
Is there a charity you’re passionate about? Ask relatives to donate a small amount it, rather than buying you a gift.
28. Embrace Technology
We often lament aspects of the digital age and yes, our reliance on devices does have its drawbacks - but there’s a lot of shelf space to be freed up when you have Netflix and Spotify rather than DVDs and CDs. And no, you don’t need both!
29. Check Your Meds
Bathroom cabinets, despite their admirable privacy, can also be a hotouse of out of date medicines, makeup and lotions. They’re a great place to start your clear out - and even if things aren’t out of date, read the labels. Are they lying to you? Making false promises about youth and eye bags? Yes? Bin them - and don’t buy them again.
30. Bah, Humbug
The festive season is a major stuffocation culprit - the influx of ‘things’ it involves can be astounding! Consider ‘skipping’ the season and spending your money on an experience or trip instead, whether alone or with family or friends. Enrichment and memories (that last well beyond the ‘return by’ date on unwanted gifts!) await.